Which Physicians Diagnose And Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
It’s estimated that nearly 80% of people with mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) go undiagnosed. Although certain risk factors – like having a larger neck circumference, or a higher BMI – can contribute to OSA, patients can’t be diagnosed based on these factors alone. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis by a physician is critical. But which doctors are qualified to diagnose and treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)? We break it down below – some of the answers may surprise you!
Physicians Who Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes a person to stop breathing for periods of time while sleeping. When someone experiences this symptom and/or any of the other associated symptoms (including but not limited to excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation, or insomnia), they should raise these concerns with their doctor. Generally, a number of medical professionals may be involved in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. So…which ones should patients visit?
Often, sleep physicians have different backgrounds but have received extra training in sleep medicine. Fellowship training programs exist that offer additional training after residency training. Many sleep physicians are board certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) and/or are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians are who many patients will see first. Some may order patients a sleep study to properly diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and then go on to prescribe treatment once the condition is confirmed. However, some of these doctors (who could be internists, family medicine practitioners, geriatricians, etc.) will refer patients to the right specialist after becoming aware of sleep apnea symptoms.
Also referred to as ear, nose and throat specialists, or ENTs, otolaryngologists treat conditions related to the ears, nose and throat. ENTs are also aware of different symptoms to look out for that might be symptoms of mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), like consistent loud snoring.
Otolaryngologists can also identify anatomical anomalies that might be linked to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Some of those include:
- A narrow airway
- A naturally small airway
- A larger than normal tonsil or tongue compared to the opening of the windpipe
If the ENT finds any anomalies after an exam, they will do more tests to determine if sleep apnea is the culprit. They may also order additional scans and images to get a better internal view.
Sometimes, patients are at higher risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) because of a neurological condition like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease. In these cases, neurologists (doctors who specialize in brain and nervous system disorders) can help.
Neurologists are well-versed in all the ways the brain and nervous system function. They also know which undiagnosed conditions can put patients at a higher risk of sleep apnea–like Parkinson’s disease, Myotonic Dystrophy, and ALS.
Pulmonologists specialize in treating the lungs and respiratory system. Because they focus on these areas, they’re familiar with disorders that affect breathing like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Pulmonologists also are more likely to check for multiple things before diagnosing a patient, understanding that underlying health conditions–like asthma or COPD–can contribute negatively and cause OSA symptoms to worsen.
Patients who suffer from high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, or survived a stroke may also be suffering from undiagnosed or untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In this case, a patient’s cardiologist would have a unique role in diagnosing and recommending treatment for sleep apnea that may be endangering their cardiovascular health. Type II Diabetes, Hypertension (high blood pressure), arrhythmias, and atrial fibrillation can all be worsened or directly impacted by untreated OSA.
Males with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can be at higher risk for hypertrophy of the prostate, chronic prostatitis, urinary incontinence, nocturia, erectile dysfunction, urinary calculi, and prostate cancer. A urologist may therefore identify OSA as linked to any of these urological conditions.
Dentists do a lot more than fill cavities and clean teeth. Some, called sleep dentists, have extensive training in treating sleep-related breathing disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Once oral appliance therapy is prescribed by a physician, the medical device will be custom fabricated by qualified sleep dentists who collaborate closely with the physician and the patient to ensure effective sleep apnea treatment.
Oral appliances are designed to help move the jaw and tongue forward and away from the back of the throat, helping to increase the size of the upper airway and therefore reduce any restrictions that occur there and result in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Comfortable, custom-made oral appliances like SomnoMed Devices are an effective form of treatment for mild and moderate OSA. They can be a first-line therapy option for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), or the alternative OSA treatment for patients who are non-compliant or won’t try CPAP. Oral Appliance Therapy is equally as effective as CPAP because patients WEAR it comfortably for longer periods each night: Effectiveness = Efficacy x Compliance.
Treatment Options For Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When it comes to mild to moderate OSA, a variety of treatment options exist, one being CPAP. However, although this treatment method is effective, it’s not the right option for everyone.
Many patients benefit from SomnoMed oral appliance therapy because it’s much easier to adhere to. Made precisely to fit the mouth shape and teeth, these devices can help patients get a comfortable night’s sleep. There are no masks, no noise, no hose, and no device to connect to.
SomnoMed oral appliances are also FDA-cleared medical devices intended to treat the medical condition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). As such, they are usually covered under most medical insurance plans, including Medicare.
Want more information about how SomnoMed devices work to treat mild to moderate OSA? Contact us and we’ll help you and/or your patients get started on the journey to effective treatment!
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